VC Money, Clarity, and the Big Apple


VC Money, Clarity, and the Big Apple

Over at his Power 2 Go blog, Keith Jones expresses concern that mergers and acquisitions and the influx of venture capital money into the parking operations world may affect the way operators see their customers. His concern is that once VC money arrives, a company’s concern may move from customer service to focusing solely on the bottom line. He has a point.

Naturally, being an operator, his concern deals with operators and operations. I would take it a step further.

A friend who runs a parking department in a million-plus-population city has expressed concern about VC money entering the supplier marketplace. She has had firsthand experience with companies losing their customer-centric mojo when acquired or have had a major influx of capital. In one case, she has had to replace expensive equipment due to lack of attentiveness after a buyout.

Obviously, this doesn’t happen in every case. However, it is typical in acquisitions that the acquired company’s founder doesn’t remain, but is gone after a few months. His or her focus on the product and the customer can be lost when it is blended into a new environment. Acquiring companies need to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

It’s difficult, however, when fund managers sit on your board, and are often the majority. They are looking out for their stockholders, and rightly so. They are expecting the bottom line numbers to reach agreed goals. It’s only natural that in this situation a company’s management will focus on that bottom line at the cost of everything else. The thinking becomes very short term.

Keith feels that all the M and A and VC activity may be a tad early in the parking industry’s development. He says:

Personally, I feel the whole thing is ten years too early. Another decade would provide an operational cushion, of sorts, to manage the heavy pressure of the purchased companies to hit SoftBank’s (a VC that turned a parking startup into a Unicorn) goals and KPIs while progressing undeterred toward better—and beneficial—customer experiences.

Like Keith, I’m not opposed to VC or acquisitions, however companies need to be aware of the pressures that they will receive when new management, often with conflicting goals, is in place.

Don’t Talk Wordy to Me

We receive news releases daily. More and more they are using complex terms in an effort, I think, to obfuscate. See I did it right there. I used a complex word (obfuscate) when a simple one, like blur, muddle, confuse, would have worked just as well.

In this case, the news release was filled with words like “cloud based mobility infrastructure platform”. It continues using “ecosystem of value driven services” and “unified platform through which they can consolidate and analyze their disparate management information.”

I love this phrase: “extensible architecture and cloud-based platform truly revolutionize the industry by providing customers and mobility partners comprehensive real-time, ecosystem data and sophisticated management tools.”

At the bottom of each news release is a paragraph that describes just what the company that sent out the release does. This line summarizes: “a future-ready philosophy that manifests itself in a smart ecosystem of solutions, products, and integrations that work together to improve mobility.”

The last line sums it up: “robust real-time data services provide efficient, secure transactions and business intelligence for organizations of all sizes and industry spectrums.”

There is not one hint in the entire 500-word release that tells you what the company does (I know that it creates reliable, high-tech cloud-based parking revenue control systems.) I note that the release comes from a PR agency and not from the company itself.

Is someone is trying to impress someone with their ability to use complex terms or are they simply trying to communicate? I will go with the latter.

Our world, it seems, has become a complexity of Twitter, Smart Phones, and computer games. Nothing is simple. A tree isn’t green, its Hunter, or Pine, or Sage. The Sky isn’t blue, its Azure. Things don’t move fast, they move at light speed. Something doesn’t happen quickly, it happens in a milli-second. Everything is an ecosystem, done in ‘real time’, is ‘cutting edge’, and ‘future-ready.”

This has become a part of our world. The author of the news release isn’t to blame, they are simply following the lead they see on their phone, display, or TV. Hemingway is spinning in his grave.

Hopefully, this trend is changing. We hear that some are dumping their smartphones for flip phones and using them for, can you believe it, talking to people. People are leaving Instagram because they are beginning to understand that it is a haven for the self-centered and BS.

Let’s make a pact. Strive for clarity. Let your 10 year old read it. If they can’t understand it, the odds are that no one else can either.

Ask Questions First

New York City, relying on input from transportation gurus, decided to instigate a program to cut down on double parking. They installed loading zones in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn with no notice. 

The signs were installed, and the enforcement began. Cars were booted and if the boots weren’t removed (after paying the fine) within two hours, the cars were towed. After towing, total charges were $430.

For some strange reason, the folks living in the neighborhoods were up in arms. Grabbing their torches and pitchforks, they held a meeting. The issue wasn’t just the highhanded way the city instituted the new program, but also the fact that a large number of parking spaces were removed.

The city didn’t seem to take into consideration that by removing the parking spaces, they were affecting the people who lived there. Sure, UPS and FedEx would have a place to park when they delivered Amazon orders, but the people who were residents and paid taxes had fewer places to park.

I love this comment from the city:

“We are adjusting some program locations based on community feedback,” a Department of Transportation spokeswoman said in a statement.

Note this ‘adjustment’ will be coming after the program was put in place.

And this final comment from one of the folks living in the area:

“All of the concerns were about the signage along the residential streets that took away parking spaces,” Holliday said. “It was just an unbelievable situation. We just have to continue as a community to be informed and aware.”

Notice that they were most concerned about the removal of the parking spaces.

Here is a situation where our betters’ desire to remove privately-owned vehicles has run roughshod over the desires of the citizenry. Planners would do well to discuss their plans with the folks who live there before they put those plans into effect.

Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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